SFWA – Almost as infuriating as Maischberger

For those confused about the title, Menschen bei Maischberger is a German TV talkshow where several guests talk about “current affairs” (which can mean anything from actual political issues to the dangers of New Age culture). In yesterday’s edition of the show, Ms. Maischberger felt the need to debate whether the fact that GLBTQI people exist is an appropriate subject for schools (because some people are having a freak-out about a state initiative to include GLBTQI topics in the curriculum) and invited two raging homophobes, a gay politician, a drag queen (and yes, “drag queen” is the correct term, because that’s how Olivia Jones defines herself) and a heterosexual chick lit writer. More here, here and here. The result was mindbogglingly offensive, as I found out when I opened Twitter, noticed that #Maischberger was the top-trending hashtag and clicked to see what people were saying. As far as I could tell, Menschen bei Maischberger had apparently turned into a hotbed of raging homophobia, so I switched on the TV and Oh, my God… it was even worse than I thought.

Which brings me to this comment by John Scalzi, which perfectly illustrates my feelings while watching the Maischberger show. Since I’m pretty sure that John Scalzi has not been watching Menschen bei Maischberger (especially since the episode in question is not yet available online), Scalzi’s Tweet can only refer to one thing, namely the ongoing SFWA drama.

First of all, S.L. Huang reminds us why the whole SFWA issue blew up in the first place. It was not because of the cheesy Red Sonja cover of the SFWA Bulletin or Barry Malzberg and Mike Resnick showing more interest in the bikini curves of a female editor than in her professional life or because someone felt the need to extoll the quiet dignity of Barbie, but because Resnick and Malzberg felt the need to compare those who criticized their column to Stalin and Mao. For those who need a refresher, S.L. Huang has also compiled a handy timeline of the controversy(ies).

Black Gate and Amazing Stories also both offer a summary of the controversy.

At C.C. Finlay’s Facebook page, Ilona Gordon, one half of the Ilona Andrews writing duo, explains why she refuses to join SFWA, namely because she feels disrespected by the organisation both as a woman and a writer of urban fantasy with romantic elements. This is a very important point, because it illustrates how SFWA is viewed by many writers.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia points out that whatever one thinks of Red Sonja covers and Resnick and Malzberg reminiscing about the good old days, this sort of content does not belong in the official magazine of a professional writers’ organisation and also offers the membership magazines of other writing organisations for comparison. Meanwhile, Jim C. Hines has taken it upon himself to launch a (not entirely serious) petition to Terry McLaughlin, president of the RWA, to include more mantitty on the covers of the Romance Writers Report, while Larry Nolan offers a parody of the “cover letter” of the petition at The OF Blog.

At The World in the Satin Bag, Shaun Duke wonders how e.g. SFWA’s many Mormon members would feel if the SFWA were to carry an article insulting their religion, while Ferrett Steinmetz detects a generation gap in the reaction to the SFWA uproar, as evidenced by the fact that most of the signatories of the petition are older writers. Indeed, one thing that struck me about the original uproar was for how many people, particularly but not exclusively older fans and writers, Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg were cultural touchstones and therefore somehow inviolable.

And because some people apparently still don’t get it, ysabetwordsmith takes it upon herself to explain the difference between editing and censorship, while Andrew Barton points out that writers of all people should know the difference. For the POV of supporters of unlimited free speech, Steven Brust does not agree with the petition, but does worry about suppression of free speech, while Will Shetterly is mainly annoyed about being banned at Radish Reviews. Now I have never banned anybody from commenting here (including Mr. Shetterly, who occasionally comments here), though I did have to delete rude comments of the personal attack variety once or twice and once I had to step in when two writers who had banned each other from their blogs started arguing in mine. But Natalie has the right to moderate her own blog as she wishes and it’s no secret that Will Shetterly can be inflammatory at times.

Finally, the SFWA feels the need to issue a statement that no, they are not intending to censor anybody.

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10 Responses to SFWA – Almost as infuriating as Maischberger

  1. Mark says:

    I haven’t seen this particular show, but talk shows with related topics, like same-sex marriage, and the line-ups of guests were very similar. I’m less frustrated with these discussions than with the SF discussions we were talking about the other day. The Dally MacFarlane article has substance, things to dissect and talk about. But if you put homophobes and homosexuals in a television show (particular if you find the need to invite celebrity homophobes or homosexuals) you get what you wanted: two speed trains that crash into each other. They frankly have nothing to talk about. It’s just “Krawallfernsehen”.

    Now in this case I have seen some of the advance feedback that the show received, and wondered if it’s really such a big deal to sort of reverse the title and use a question from the point of view of the conservative position as the title of the show. I have seen some comments about whether or not they should have put it in quotes, I thought these details are minor and irrelevant. And you probably know this Alphonse guy, who does these street interviews and asks people these questions like: “which people do you think are more lazy asylum seekers or unemployed?” So this reverse approach sometimes leads to remarkable and disturbing answers.

    Anyway, on second thought, I felt a bit differently about that, because this is Maischberger, and if you look at the sort of topics that she covers in her show (which I haven’t seen in a while, but I looked at the archive, and sometimes I see teasers) you see that her show is much directly marketed towards an older and more conservative demographics. Which gives this whole thing a bad taste. So what was she thinking really?

  2. Mark says:

    “is much directly marketed towards an older and more conservative demographics”

    Missed a half sentence, what I meant was: it’s more directly marked towards that sort of audience than the other talk shows on the same channel (Beckmann, Will, Plasberg).

    • Cora says:

      Most of what is broadcast on ARD and ZDF these days is aimed at older and conservative demographics. Many of my elderly conservative relatives are avid watchers of Beckmann, Maischberger, Anne Will, Hart aber fair (which is the worst of the ilk IMO). Those shows really are “Krawallfernsehen auf öffentlich-rechtlich”. Indeed, it’s only the public TV stations which are still broadcasting such programs. The private channels used to have similar programs such as Talk im Turm, but they have all been cancelled years ago.

      Alphonse is of course known for his satirical interviews by now, though the sort of people he targets (conservative and elderly) almost uniformly don’t know who he is. I know my parents were mightily confused when they saw him on TV one day. However, Maischberger is not Alphonse and her show is not even remotely satirical, though it often looks that way.

      If they really wanted to tackle the GLBT rights and homophobia topic (and why are we even having this debate in 2014?), Anne Will would probably have been a better bet, if only because she is a lesbian woman herself.

  3. I clearly need to tweak my post, because I’m not annoyed by being banned. I had thought my second sentence, “Which is appropriate and entirely unsurprising.” made that clear, but obviously, it didn’t, so I’ll try again.

    But S. L. Huang is being disingenuous. It’s like saying World War II didn’t start until D-Day. I’ll leave a longer comment there in a minute or two.

    • Cora says:

      Sorry for misrepresenting your position, Will.

      I didn’t follow the SFWA uproar closely in the early stages. I noticed some rumblings about the Red Sonja cover and the Barbie article, though I must have missed the bit about the bikini-clad editor. However, the situation completely exploded when Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg decided to compare people disagreeing with them on the Internet with Stalinists.

      And WWII of course started on September 1, 1939. A case could also be made for the Second Sino-Japanese war of 1937 to be the start of WWII. Only Americans think that it started with Pearl Harbor.

  4. Pingback: More Maischberger and more SFWA | Cora Buhlert

  5. Daniela says:

    Am I glad that I no longer watch Maischberger and didn’t zap into it by accident. I don’t think my tv would have survived. I also think she was totally the wrong moderator for such a debate. She already has trouble handling her guests for easier topics. And the selection of guests was another problematic issues. This was just strife for the sake of strife.

    If the aim was an honest debate someone like Wieland Backes with his Nachtcafé would have been a better venue. Unfortunately the Nachtcafé only runs in one of the third programms and not during prime-time on the ARD.

    I think an Asterix-quote sums the SWFA-thing up best: “These Americans are crazy.”

    The Jim Hines petitition had me laughing though. I’m all for mantitty!!!

    • Cora says:

      Yes, Maischberger occasionally has problems handling her guests. As I said to Mark, Anne Will would probably have been the better choice.

      The Nachtcafé guy apparently hosted a GLBTQI debate of his own, which I didn’t watch, because I only ever happen across Nachtcafé when I’m waiting for Literatur in Foyer (which I keep missing since they moved it to a different day). What I read about it didn’t necessarily sound pleased, though.

      In general, I’m just depressed that we’re even having this debate in Germany in 2014.

  6. Pingback: SFWA me, baby, one more time | Cora Buhlert

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